Two essential home improvements – fire and water

If and when the economic collapse occurs, or if a major natural disaster hits your region, there are two key improvements that I recommend for every survival location:

  1. Fireplace (or wood stoves) for home heating and contingency cooking
  2. Water collection from gutters and down spouts

In the forthcoming economic collapse, the major killers will be:

  1. Diseases, due to lack of sanitary conditions and lack of access to clean water
  2. Cold weather exposure, due to inability to heat your home
  3. Starvation
  4. Chronic illnesses
  5. Violence

A vast majority of the United States receives weather cold enough in the winter to require home heating.   When the economic collapse occurs, several things can be expected.   First, likely that you may not have enough income to pay for utilities, such as natural gas, electricity, propane, home heating oil, water, and sewer.    Or municipally provided utilities may be interrupted due to an economic disruption.   If your home obtains its water from a well, most wells are pumped by electric motors.  Loss your electricity, the lose access to your well water.

Also important, basement sump pumps running off electricity.  Lose your electricity, then you might have problems with keeping your basement or foundation free of ground water.   For short-term interruptions, you should have a deep cell battery dedicated to the sump pump.   Do a google search for “sump pump battery” for more information about this topic.

When the power goes out, most furnaces will not run.  Modern furnaces use electronic controllers to optimize BTU production.   The fans for most home heating furnaces are driven by electricity.  Even if natural gas continues to flow to your home, your natural gas furnace will not likely work.

The best mechanism to heat your home, without access to public utilities, is a fireplace or wood stove.   Homes that were built prior to 1915 often have fireplaces in each key room of the house.   Many of these fireplaces are now deactivated to become solely ornamental.   Many new homes have no fireplace.  Many newer fireplaces are ventless, which are worthless.   Having a wood burning, externally vented fireplace is best mechanism to heat your home during an economic collapse.   If your current home will also be your long-term survival location, then it is essential to have at least one fireplace or wood burning stove.   Families with a lot of extra funds, a wood burning kitchen stove will be a true blessing.

When you set up your wood stove or fireplace, also look into adding a heat exchanger.  If you can obtain a heat exchanger that does not run off of electricity, that would be optimal.  The goal is not  to rely on electricity.  A heat exchange will optimize heat production by sending more of the heat into the surrounding room, rather than up into the flue where it is wasted.

Some good references:

Hot Water

We all take for granted when we turn of the hot water faucet.  You cannot expect this luxury to continue after TEOTWAWKI.  After SHTF, you will find that you are continually boiling water for many reason, including:

  1. Purifying water for drinking
  2. Meal preparation, especially for dehydrated and freeze-dried foods
  3. Brewing hot beverages – coffee, tea, hot chocolate
  4. Home canning – water bath and pressure cooker
  5. Washing dirty dishes, glasses, silverware, pots and pans
  6. Bathing and personal hygiene
  7. Washing clothing –
    1. Soiled bedding and dirty diapers are un-fun to wash manually
  8. Sterilizing medical instruments
  9. Other sanitary cleaning of a home

The ideal setup for  heating water is the ability to directly plumbed your home’s existing hot water heater to route through the wood-burning kitchen stove.   With this setup, you will be living like a king.

How Much Firewood to Have on Hand

Once you have a wood-burning stove or fireplace, it is recommended that you always have a full winter’s stock of cured firewood at hand.

Properly cured firewood burns more cleanly and more efficiently.   Hardwoods that have been cured for 6 to 12 months is optimal.  Softwoods, such as pine, have more resins.  Burning wood with lots of resins will result in a build up of creosote.   (reference: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Creosote).   Creosote build-up can lead to chimney fires — very bad!!

The standard measure for firewood is a cord.  A cord is a measurement of stacked firewood with the dimensions of 4 feet high by 4 feet wide and 8 feet long.   If you plan to run your fireplace or wood stove throughout a 5 month winter, you will need around two full cords.  But the amounts will vary greatly.  Much depends on how well your home is insulated.  After TEOTWAWKI, expect to be using your fireplace and wood stove much, much more.  In addition to heating your home, you will also be doing meal cooking and water heating through your fireplace or wood stove.  For that reason and to be conservative, I would suggest that you are doubling the amount of firewood stored.  If you have 2 cords already cure and another 2 cords in the process of being cured, that might get you through.  But only you can estimate how much you need.   Talk to your neighbors who have a fireplace.  How much do they burn through the winter?

During the first year of TEOTWAWKI, your main focus will be security.  You will need to be vigilant 24 hours per day.  Likely your survival group or aggregate family will need to establish a 24 hours security watch.  Some survival groups go as far to also setup an observation post, which is outside and away from the homestead.   Likely you will need to live off of your stored food and stored firewood.   Chainsaw make a noise that travels far.   Cutting firewood puts you into a very vulnerable position.   You will be an easy target for a sniper.   So that you can hunker down for the first year after TEOTWAWKI in the safety of your home, I recommend that you aways have a full winter’s volume of firewood stored at your homestead throughout the entire year.  Never be without a full winter’s load.  Spring, Summer, Winter, Fall — always have your full year’s load of firewood on hand, plus extra for contingency.   If you buy your firewood, then buy it in the Spring season, which will give you 6 months to cure the wood.

To cut your own firewood, your choice is an ax or chainsaw.   Having an ax is always a good back-up plan.  In a period of TEOTWAWKI, the laws of atrophy will have us regressing back to hand tools.  Until then, you will want a chainsaw.  There are lots of website that provide recommendations on the best chainsaw.  What I’ll recommend is that you get the proper safety gear.   A chainsaw accident during TEOTWAWKI is a final event.   So getting safety gear is mandatory.   The following is video about chainsaw safety equipment: http://www.consumerreports.org/cro/video-hub/home–garden/tools–power-equipment/chain-saw-safety-tips/17037617001/1285246282/.  Also look at: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Chain_saw

A very important key item with chainsaw operations is 2 cycle oil to mix with gasoline.  One of my favorite blogs, www.survivalblog.com recommends that you stock up on 2 cycle oil also for barter.  It can be predicted during SHTF, since everyone will be cutting their own firewood, the supplies of 2 cycle oil will soon disappear.   Next time you are at the hardware store, but a case of 2 cycle oil.  Do an Amazon search for “chainsaw 2 cycle oil” to see your options for this type of oil.

You will need to store gasoline for your chainsaw.  Unfortunately, there are very few options for diesel-powered chain saws.   Diesel fuel stores for much longer than gasoline.   Gasoline only stores for about 2 years before it turns to gunk.   To store gasoline longer, use a fuel preservative additive, such as Sta-bil or PRI-g.

Water Storage

Water storage is more complex than you might think.  First, water is bulky and heavy.   Each gallon of water weights a little more than 8 pounds.  Currently in the United States, people consume 60 (sixty) gallons of water per day.   Why so much?  Add up the use of toilets, bath tubs or shower, laundry machines, drinking, lawn sprinklers, hand washing, cooking, cleaning, and lastly, for drinking.   After TEOTWAWKI, you will not and cannot use this must water.  First, you will be bathing less often.   The old joke about getting a bath once a week on Saturday night will return.   After SHTF, you will be dirtier because you will be working outside or in the garden.  And you will stay dirtier longer.   Heating enough water on a wood burning stove to fill a wash tub is just not practical.

How much water should you store?  For initial emergencies, I recommend 2 gallons per person for 14 days.    If you have a family of 4 (four), then recommend that you store about 115 gallons.  For survival prepper, the standard water storage vessel is the 55 gallon.   Have two of these plus a number of gallon jugs, you will be set.   The key to long-term survival is the ability to collect and filter water.   You simply cannot store enough water for a long-term situation.   The best method to collect water is a rain water collection system.   Diverting water into a cistern or water barrels will produce the freshest, cleanest water.

Some examples of rain water collection are:

After rain water collection, then you need local access to water.   Having a well on your property is essential if you live in a rural area.   Most wells use electrical pumps.   It would be worth investigating powering your electrical pump from DC batteries, which are recharged via solar panels.   As with anything related to electricity, get a licensed electrician to guide and install.

After a well, then you will need access to standing or running water.   If you can afford it and have the space, an in ground pool is a wonderful source of emergency water.    If you live in the city or suburbs, I would recommend that you map out sources of  non-saline water.  Sources may include ponds, lakes, streams, and rivers.  I am fortunate that a stream flowing year round is within a 10 minute walk from my home.

Regardless of how you obtain and store water, you will want to filter any warm before consumption.   Never drink any water, including rain water or pool water, until it has been purified.   Water born diseases will be the biggest killer after TEOTWAWKI.   More people will die from drinking bad water than from all other causes combined.  An example of this was seen in Haiti after its recent earthquake.   (reference: http://ac360.blogs.cnn.com/2010/10/25/aid-workers-fight-to-keep-cholera-out-of-haiti-capital/)

Best mechanism to produce clean water for drinking and cooking is a Berkey water filter or some other type of gravity feed ceramic filter.   Berkey’s black filters are especially effective by removing 99.99% of bad stuff from water.   Older Berkey’s and other brands use white ceramic filters, which are also very effective.   You must have a Berkey (or similar) water filter.   This is the number one purchase priority for any survival prepper.   A Berkey water filter is more important than guns and food.   And stock up on extra filter inserts.  The Berkey is not cheap, when compared to a Brita water filter.  But the Brita does not remove pathogens from water.  Brita is not a survival water filter.   Water is the most important component of survival preparation.   Buy a big Berkey for your home and several Sport Berkey portable water filters for your bug-out kits.   Recommend that you have two spare sets of filters on hand as replacements.    For about $400 (USD), you can obtain a Big Berkey and two spare sets of filters.  This is the best money you will have ever spent.

Hope you always stay warm, comfortable, and well hydrated.   Cheers!

About suburbanprep

Webmaster and blogger for survival5x5.com
This entry was posted in General, Safety (Medical, Sanitation, Security, Weapons), Shelter (Home, Heating, Cooling), Stuff (Gear and Tools), Sustenance (Food and Water). Bookmark the permalink.

3 Responses to Two essential home improvements – fire and water

  1. Watermelon says:

    You do not mention rocket mass heating/cooking. From outside CONUS it is bizarre how the various elements of what is nominally US society do not talk to each other as part of mutual hatred. Because it is common knowledge among non-survivalist US permaculturists http://www.permies.com that the rocket mass heater invented by “liberal” CONUS national Larry Winarski (also: book by Iantro Evans) reduces wood consumption by 80%. The Wisner couple have now built 700 of them. Heating knows no politics, I would say. Blueprints available for purchase at http://www.permies.com. Secondly, there is no mention of how to dechlorinate all that fine above-ground chlorinated swimming pool water for drinking use! Signed: Socialist European Watermelon “(SEW)- What.

    • suburbanprep says:

      Thank you for your comments. Permaculture is an excellent practice. Rocket stoves are very good tools. The Big Berkey with its additional module can remove chorine from water. thank you!!

  2. Pingback: Two essential home improvements – fire and water | Survival 5×5 … | Surviving The Collapse